Inside the Cost and Chaos of Special Elections When Politicians Die or Resign
In Alabama, “even as Roy Moore was making national headlines for all the wrong reasons, turnout was still really low,” at just over 40%, Ryan Williamson, the resident fellow for governance at the R Street Institute, a Washington-based think tank, and an assistant professor at Auburn University, told Insider.
“That multimillion-dollar cost of holding those elections becomes even more egregious when you consider how few people are participating in them,” Williamson added.
Williamson, the resident fellow for governance at R Street, and groups such as FairVote also advocate for ranked-choice voting to ensure the winners of often crowded special-election primaries get a majority of the vote, a lower-cost alternative to expensive runoff elections.
“You have an opportunity for finding the maybe not the most popular candidate, but the most agreeable candidate,” Williamson said of ranked-choice voting.
Aside from structural changes to the US’s voting systems, reducing the nonstop stream of special elections and lowering their costs would require members of Congress to decide to step aside at the end of their terms, instead of hanging on until the very end.
“It’s not just the millions of dollars to hold the election but weeks more of campaigning and vitriol,” Williamson said of special elections. “And we know voters just get tired of it.”